3-Minute Interview: Steve Young of the Remove Invasive Plants program

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People,Scott McCabe,3-Minute Interview,Environment

Young is a site leader for the Remove Invasive Plants program at Long Branch Nature Center in Arlington. He has been managing invasives there for more than 20 years.

How did you become a volunteer at Long Branch?

I live very close to Long Branch Nature Center, and it is kind of my larger backyard. One day I noticed that English Ivy vines had completely grown over a bench along a trail. I started pulling off the vines; it was fun.

When I imagine a typical volunteer for the RIP program, I picture someone who just loves pulling weeds. Maybe he or she has been in the sun too long. Is that you?

No question, killing bad plants can be addictive. I like to say, "Today is a good day for bad plants to die!" But the real payoff is when we see cool native plants and wildlife coming back because we cleaned out that bad stuff. And the work gives us some exercise and outdoor time in nature.

Why is it important to yank out the invasives?

The nonnative invasive plants are killers. They kill trees and understory plants, attract pests including rats and mosquitoes, harm wildlife like birds and insects that rely on native plants and lower property values by turning parkland into ugly junglelike messes. By ripping out the invasive plants, we are liberating lost areas and restoring a healthy environment.

I hear that snakes are falling out of trees in Adams Morgan. You ever run into snakes or dangerous animals?

I haven't seen any snakes drop in yet, although I do worry about branches falling on my head. My big fear is yellow jackets during summer months. When they attack you and sting, it hurts, and you have to run away and give it up for the day. Also, sometimes the plants fight back. We can get poked by thorns and spines, and we have to watch out for poison ivy.

Anything else that our readers should know?

Let's go kill some bad invasive plants! We love new volunteers and have monthly invasive removal events where we'd love to see you. Check out our website.

- Scott McCabe

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